In these trouble times, I’ve noticed, from my vantage point as a psychotherapist, an increase of anxiety among people I know. It’s like a sickness hanging in the air. There are logical reasons for this - real economic concerns and continuing health worries. But God has given us a simple antidote for anxiety, if we’ll remember to use it.
And it’s powerful! I’m describing God’s gift of laughter. Pure, unadulterated, joyful laughter. I searched out the Scripture verses that specifically use the word laugh or laughter and listed them below. Many other verses speak about being joyful, rejoicing and praising God. I don’t discount that delight, but these refer specifically to the act of laughing.
God laughs. Since we’re made in God’s image, the ability to laugh is not an add-on that only certain personalities have. We all acquired our ability to laugh from God so anyone can utilize this gift. And we can intentionally learn to laugh more. Laughter is a contagious human experience and totally healthy.
Laughter can keep us from being too somber about distressing events around us and remind us we have a fortress in our loving God. The Lord himself laughs at the wicked for he knows that their day is coming. (Psalm 37:13) I wonder if we, too, could actually laugh at times at the ridiculous evil we see. Is this realistic? It is, if we know that God is in charge of all things.
Little is known about the mechanism of laughter, but all the same we know it works when we experience it because we enjoy every moment. What makes you laugh until your insides jiggle? Funny, silly movies, the antics of a dog, jokes?
Let’s consider the practical health benefits of laughter. When our eighteen-year-old son was diagnosed with advanced T-cell cancer, one of the first things we did was send someone to the library to pick up an armload of funny movies to boost his immune system.
Laughter aids circulation, lowers blood pressure, boosts our immune system, and releases tension which lowers anxiety. The physical act of laughing releases endorphins in the brain causing a feeling of happiness. The relaxed feeling after a good laugh can last up to an hour, similar to when you have a physical work-out. It increases the body’s production of antibodies and T-cells that fight off disease. Your pain tolerance jumps. Fifteen muscles in your face contract during laughter. Yes, all true. Yet, as we age, we often forget how much fun it is. And how helpful.
Personally, I think laughter is the most fun when it’s also a social experience. I love to laugh with family and friends, but I do derive pleasure from laughing at myself occasionally, too.
I also view laughter as a spiritual experience, because it’s a great act of trust to laugh with God no matter what’s going on around us. Evil does exist in our midst. I’m not asking anyone to ignore that reality. But we have a choice and we can laugh while walking the path of trust - rejoicing and praising our God who is in charge of all things.
One of my children’s stories in Unforgettable Stories for Kids is called The Tickle Ring. It’s plain, pure silliness. I encourage you to read it to your child or grandchild or let me read it for you through my YouTube channel Judith Rolfs. You’ll find lots of thoughts and tips there to motivate families to make an intentional effort to create a happy, strong family life.
I kept a joke book in the car when driving my grandchildren around. After I pick them up at school I let them take turns reading a joke for the day. How about this Father’s Day sharing some anecdotal stories from your childhood or your husbands that could create atmosphere for laughter.
You may want to keep the Scripture verses below handy to remind you to be intentional about adding more laughter into your life.
Happy days of laughter!
- Genesis 21:6: “And Sarah declared, ‘God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me.’”
- Job 8:21: “He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.”
- Psalm 2:4: “But the one who rules in heaven laughs.”
- Psalm 37:13: “But the Lord just laughs, for he sees their day of judgment coming.”
- Psalm 126:2: “We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’”
- Luke 6:21: “God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now for in due time you will laugh.”
- Ecclesiastes 3:4: “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…”
- Ecclesiastes 10:19 “A feast is made for laughter…”